A Bag Full of Tricks in Leipzig, Germany

KateThis summer I had the great opportunity to further my journalism education across the pond in Leipzig, Germany. Myself, along with thirteen other J-School classmates, traveled thousands of miles to gain a better perspective of international journalism at the University of Leipzig.

I have never had a burning passion to become an international journalist, but was curious how the other side of the world did this journalism thing. During my four weeks abroad, I explored Germany while writing articles, blogs and edited and broadcasted a radio piece. By the end of those four weeks, I gained an immense appreciation for international communicators and realized how important it was to have that skill set.

However, the tasks I completed abroad were tougher than I imagined. I had taken a step back from “traditional” journalism many moons ago when I found my home in public relations at OU. The world was not the same as back home in the United States. I found myself bored to death on trams and trains when no Wi-Fi was provided to check my Facebook or Twitter feeds.

It came as a shock to me when our group visited MDR, one of Germany’s new and innovative television channels that broadcasts to Saxony. A recent batch of interns were exploring the possibility of using social media to attract a younger audience. One intern took it upon herself to start up and run the social media for the company. One girl on her MacBook versus all of Central Germany; I get anxiety just thinking about it!

Because European media was not as tech savvy as I was used to, I had to re-hone my traditional journalism skills. Most of our class assignments were articles or radio pieces. As a result, my experience in Germany soon felt like a distant yet familiar dream as I dived back into the world of broadcast and feature writing.

After my first collaborative article I had shaken out most of the cobwebs and felt more comfortable writing my second article; a profile on an American female acrobatic performer who was currently performing at a local theater show. I stayed up all night perfecting the story before it was published and felt great sense of accomplishment. I hadn’t lost my old writing skills after all!

But how were these old tricks of mine going to help me improve my PR skill set? What was I getting out of this trip that I couldn’t get interning at an agency at home? Then I started to think like the savvy PR chick I am, and realized how important a solid background in news and feature writing was to the world of public relations.

I had spent so much time using social media to promote our client with ImPRessions last year that I forgot the beauty of PR is that we have so many mediums to work through to reach the public. The possibilities are endless, people! How interesting would it have been to post the acrobat story on a travel website or Facebook page to promote the show or entice traveling Americans to visit Leipzig to see the performance.

I think as college students, it’s easy for us to rely solely upon Twitter or Facebook as our PR tools because it’s easy in a college town. However, in the real world (as in the international world) you have to spread all of the pieces across the game board in order to pass go and collect 200 dollars.

What I learned studying international journalism abroad was that by taking the initiative to develop a wide range of journalistic skills, I am able to become the well-rounded PR guru I can be. Because we have to choose a specific journalistic field to major in doesn’t mean we have to limit our abilities. Studying abroad gave me the desire to not become stagnant with relying on what is easy, but to explore what’s challenging. There are so many great ideas and opportunities out there, it just sometimes takes a Bobcat to bring them to life!

-Kate Schroeder is a junior PR major with a psychology minor who studied abroad in Leipzig, Germany summer 2013. Follow her at @kschroeds7.

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